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Grab On to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way
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Grab On to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  526 ratings  ·  85 reviews

A wise, bighearted, and hilarious look at one teenager's life by a remarkable new voice in contemporary fiction

It's 1992, and as Vim Sweeney deals with the recent end of his high school career and the uncertainty of his future, America shares his angst. In Seattle, Kurt Cobain reeks of teen spirit. In Washington, George Bush (the first one) has just finished rattling

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Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 13th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published June 1st 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 959)
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Alan
Oct 28, 2007 Alan rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: douchebags
Self-indulgent self-conscious coming of age story all the worse because it is speckled with lines of brilliance, like vitamins in a turd. Think an indie rock-themed Good Will Hunting. Or Kerouac cameos the O.C.
Bandit
Great cover, terrific title...and the story that doesn't quite live up to either. Even if you were a teen in the 90s, something about this nostalgia trip just didn't quite sing. Angsty 17/18 year old(as if there is any other kind) doing his best to sort out his life and falling in love. Nothing really original and while some of the writing was quite good, overall it was heavily stylized (intentionally or not) as someone I can't quite put my mental finger on. At least it was a very quick read.
wendy
i read 30 or 40 pages and realized THIS BOOK SUCKS AND IT'S NOT GETTING ANY BETTER. i hardly EVER give up on book. i've done so only once or twice before. thank goodness this was an advance and i didn't spend any money on it. piece of garbage.

alright. so i read some more. i hate giving up on books. i'm still not liking anything about this thing but i haven't thrown it out yet.

i finished it. waste of time. it's so disjointed and not very interesting. i don't feel for the kid... don't bother with...more
Jennn
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David
I wanted to like this book. I wanted to like it after picking it up, I wanted to like it after the first 10 pages, then the first 50, but by the first 100 I was starting to face up to the fact that I just wasn’t feeling it with this debut novel from Bryan Charles.

I especially wanted to like this book after reading the author bio and the “about the book” section in which Charles says the book is an “intangible force that gave back everything I put into it and more.” I love that sort of passion,...more
Cara Tobe
I absolutely loved this book when I was 16 and after lending my copy to numerous friends, I eventually lost track of it. Then as time went on I forgot the title. And then I realized that it wasn't as popular as I once thought and finding the name again became a task I obsessed over numerous times but I always came up empty handed. Just now, I was going through old posts on Facebook, remarking on how the phrasing of status updates changed along with the drastic changes Facebook went through. And...more
Tiff
Portions of this book are pure poetry. The shorter sections, the stream of conciousness. The storytelling is a bit weak and I felt like flipping through those parts to get to the beautiful writing. Some paragraphs I wanted to print out and hang on my walls and other drug out. It took me longer to get through this book than it does most and this is a relatively short book. Bryan Charles is a good writer, I'm not not sure if his talent was put to best use in this book.
James
This is set in 1992 and following the life of Vincent "Vim" Sweeney. Vim is an eighteen-year-old who falls for his friend and bandmate's girlfriend, loses his virginity in a one-night stand and falls into heavy drinking. He lives with his mom and step-dad and feels estranged from his father, who was largely absent while he was growing up. This is an angst-y coming of age novel. Bryan Charles writes some of these like stream of consciousness and the effect is you feel like you are in Vim's head....more
Chris
I get it. I see why this book is so polarizing. By the first 20 pages, you'll know if this is a book for you. Is it one for me? Yes. Yes it is.

It has some problems and is--perhaps--a bit too fragmented at times. But, holy shit, there are some killer lines and moments in here. The kind that make any writer jealous and awed at this author's ability to spin a sentence. Mr. Charles has many of those moments, and the book becomes ridiculously fucking beautiful.

And, again, I get that some would think...more
oriana
What a surprising and terrific book!

This is one of those books that actually changes the cadence of your thoughts as you read it.... The author's voice is so intensely urgent, so fervent and sure. Vim is the boy I would have been (and was!) in love with in high school.
Robert Wells
I only read this because it was written by a friend of a friend's boyfriend... or something like that, and I was glad that this friend had that friend who had that boyfriend because I would have missed out on some good adolescent angst.
Eme
This book takes place right in the middle of where I grew up, so I inevitably felt a kinship to it from the start. I also feel a connection to this bored, horny, grungy boy with a penchant for rock and abstract poetry, in spite of the fact that while this was all happening, i was just being born. I understand where people are coming from when they talk about being frustrated with the wayward style of writing and being confused by the mix of tenses and first/third person; however my mind works th...more
Laurie
The first half of this book reads very fast- there are a lot of events, the characters being introduced are interesting, and the main character develops a great voice that he expresses with some examples of really poetic writing in some places.

It does hit a wall though, which seems like it may have been the intent of the story but ultimately made me less excited about reading it. As the main character flounders and sort of flails around his life, you are expected to care, but somehow- I don't kn...more
Tim Lepczyk
Aug 24, 2008 Tim Lepczyk rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Teens
The main strength of this book besides a catchy title is the narrative voice. The narrator takes the reader into the story and sustains a semi-lucid story which weaves through a highschool kids year summer after graduation. That being said, the rest of the novel is just a standard coming of age story. These novels have their place, especially for angsty young teens; however after reading a few you never need to read another one.
In the end, the main character seems shallow and naive, nothing has...more
Darga
Dec 28, 2008 Darga rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: bright young things

"Give me a sweater made from your smell and whispers."

"The fatigue setting in, the emptiness, the dull panic, an alarm clock blaring, banging against the love and desire. The certain knowledge that all of these things will live within you and fight for dominance the rest of your days."

"The power light on the Twin Reverb glows like god's electric blood."

"You lean down, closer, closer, close enough now to feel the heat of her breath on your mouth, and to taste it, sweet and vaguely smoky. You are
...more
Carrie Wilson
Meh.
Years ago, I picked up this book because the title intrigued me, as well as the short plot blurb on the back cover, which mentioned Kurt Cobain and Vim's "stumbling" toward adulthood. A coming-of-age story set in the early '90's? I'm there!
So I thought. I was a fourteen year old Nirvana fan when Kurt Cobain committed suicide I would have liked this book better back then, when I was an angsty lost soul like Vim (minus the drug and alcohol abuse). The plot is aimless, Vim is a whiny, self-cen...more
Andrew Karr
Read this as a followup to Bryan Charles's short book about the band Pavement and their album Wowee Zowee, a contribution to the 33 1/3 series, which I found insightful, personal, and engaging, moreso than most music books.

Grab On to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way; typical premise, atypically written. Standard male coming-of-age from the perspective an early-90s midwestern punk (my wheelhouse). Had I read this at age 16 it would likely have been my favorite book. Particularly enjoyed the second...more
Kristen
Dec 20, 2007 Kristen rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone enthralled with grunge or 90's culture
This was a really differnt book for me. My awesome friend, JD, bought it for me after we had a conversation about fascinations with book covers and titles and this book came up.
It is written in a very fragmented and poetic fashion. It reflects alot on the mass feelings of anxiety demonstrated by adolescents and young adults in the 90's. I enjoyed the elopement from my usual genres and topics of interest.
It's a quick read too and far from the sameold, sameold we can easily run into. His method...more
Amanda J
Very rarely do I not finish a book, but I only made it a third of the way through this one.
The "stream of consciousness" style made it impossible for me to enjoy. Page after page of incomplete sentences and disjointed thoughts connected by song lyrics - no thank you.

Amazon Deal of the Day and I still paid too much.
Emerald_ocean
Feb 13, 2008 Emerald_ocean rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
This book changed my view on life completely. Vim is the epitome of a love/hate relationship to me. At times I found myself hateing his very core and saying to myself "why do you continue reading this, this is just going to turn out to be the same as all the other similar books out there. Vim will just disapoint you"; but at other times you wish Vim Sweeney really did exist, and you could talk to him, and tell him that you know exactly what he means, and that he didnt have to explain anything be...more
Carly
Overall, it was not great, but it held up to my expectations. It's a book told from the perspective of a recent high school graduate who has no idea what he's doing with his life, has fallen in love with his band-mate's damaged girlfriend and is basically a mess. Many of the entries (I call them this because they weren't exactly chapters) are either drug/alcohol-induced or sleep-deprived stream of consciousness nonsense. There are some particularly good points and I did end up rooting for the gu...more
Lisa
Jan 02, 2008 Lisa marked it as to-read
I bought this book because the cover illustration was done by my favorite silkscreen dude, Jay Ryan of the Bird Machine.

Today I read the first 24 pages. I didn't like them. It reminded me of slammed poetry. I don't like poetry slamming. It was also like a snot-nosed teenager who is trying very hard to be cool, but ends up just sounding like a snot-nosed teenager trying to sound cool, and therefore, not cool.

I might try again later. A lot later after all of my books have caught fire and I have n...more
Callie
Mar 20, 2008 Callie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Callie by: I saw it in Katie's To-Read section. I only read what Katie want
Good at times, embarrassing at others.
The "Insights, Interviews, & More..." section at the end almost made me want to add an additional star... When discussing his influences, Mr. Charles shares the following: "Finally, I recommend the lyric sheet to Pavement's Brighten the Corners. The album is musically close to flawless, but even if late-nineties indie rock isn't your thing the words alone are worth the price of admission. Especially with "Shady Lane", "Starlings of the Slipstream", and...more
Annie
Dec 14, 2007 Annie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone!
This book is so good it makes me sick. The prose is random and real and nonstop and he just writes like he talks (now that I've read some interviews), and I was a tiny bit skeptical when I read the first few pages, like, "Oh, here's this angsty kid, why should I care about him?" but immediately I was drawn in, and it's so funny, too. The way he wrote this book is how I try and would like to write sometimes. How did he do it?! I'm definitely going to buy my own copy (got this one at the library b...more
Laura
I picked this book up at my favourite used book store on a whim. Though I can see why some people may not be a fan of it, I finished it quickly because I enjoyed it so much. Luckily, I'm the perfect demographic - just graduated high school and completely disenchanted and lost. If you're a fan of coming of age or stream of consciousness novels, this is a marvelous example for you. It also happens to be littered with delightful pop culture references. Despite seeming disjointed or whiny at a few p...more
Lucy
I loved this book- I want to give it 4 1/2 stars so much.
If you like books to have lots of action/ a full on plot then you probably wouldn't enjoy it, as not a massive amount really happens. However I think the main character ends up a completely different, and matured person. It's pretty much a coming of age story but different to any other I've read, it delves much deeper into the mind of the main charcter. Bryan Charles writes BRILLIANTLY, there were so many points in the book where I would j...more
Liz Muñoz
I'll start by saying this book isn't for everyone. This is a very rock & roll coming of age novel and one I could keep going back to from time to time. It resonated with me because it's from my era and my boyfriend in high school was in a band, so I could relate to a lot of the goings on in this book. The prose is random and fragmented but it was deeply poetic. I had a love/hate relationship with Vim, the main character. I just wanted to knock some sense into him, as I'm sure my Mom wanted t...more
Deena
If you went to high school in the late 80s early 90s, this book will probably resonate with you. It's the story of that tenuous journey from adolescence to young adulthood. Parents, friends, the unattainable girl, mistakes, all are at play in this novel. The language, style, story, main character are all too familiar in a reminiscent, genuine, and real kinda way. You knew this kid, were friends this kid and probably..were this kid.

Also, there are some funny, 90s references that make you realize...more
Alicia
I had to think about this book for a while before I wrote about it. Set in 1992 Vincent attempts to make sense of the world by partying, playing in a band and lusting after his band mate's damaged girlfriend. At various points during the book I wondered about mental illness issues (at the very least, depression) and fully expected something along those lines to be revealed by the end of the book. It wasn't. Apparently this is a look at a typical teenager during the grunge years but the book felt...more
Stephanie
I was expecting a little more Beth Cooper but got more Napoleon Dynamite. The character narrating is just so all-over-the-place that half the time you have no idea what's going on; but at the same time, I think that's the author's goal. He is trying to illustrate the lost feeling the character has after graduation, and I did like the book more toward the end, when he starts to speak more clearly and show real emotions instead of just drunken confusion. As if I don't hear enough of that hanging o...more
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